Friends of Sandwich Town Archives
Helping to Preserve the Historical Treasures of Sandwich, Massachusetts
Historic Homes Lost & Who Lived There
The William & Priscilla Brown Allen House
(And the Quakers of East Sandwich)
By Kaethe O’Keefe Maguire - FOSTA President
Many years ago, I recall reading that when early Sandwich residents did their own population count they added, almost as an afterthought, “And about one hundred Quakers out in East Sandwich.”
The home built in 1672 by William Allen and Priscilla Brown Allen shown here once stood at 312 Route 6A.
Photo circa 1885, courtesy John Nye Cullity.
This phrase tells us a lot about the difference between the tolerant Sandwich residents and the punitive folks of Plymouth Bay and Mass Bay in Boston. Sandwich did not persecute their Quaker neighbors or drive them out of town as they did off Cape. Mary Dyer hid out in East Sandwich for some time before she returned to Boston and was hanged. The Puritans and their rigid religious beliefs ruled Boston and Plymouth.
On December 3, 1658, Plymouth Court ordered that any boat carrying Quakers to Sandwich be seized to prevent the religious heretics from landing. A year earlier, Quakers in Sandwich had established the first Friends’ Meeting in the New World.
Mary Dyer being marched to her death by hanging
If you reflect on the 60 families, led by Edmund Freeman, who walked to Sandwich in 1637 along with George Allen and family, to settle the area with permission of Governor Bradford, we know they were looking for a life other than that offered in Boston or Plymouth and for the most part they found it.
Sandwich not only had friendly and accepting relations with the evolving Quaker Society of Friends after the visit of Christopher Holder, a Quaker leader from England, to Sandwich in 1656, but also did well with the Wampanoags, the indigenous people of the area.
Sandwich went for some years without a minister, much to the chagrin of Plymouth and Boston, and when they did hire such men, they tended to be tolerant sorts with the exception of Jonathan Burr who caused a great schism in 1811, but I digress, he is a topic for another time.
Above left is the Allen home with Alfred Hoxie in the photo, courtesy John Nye Cullity, and above right is roughly what stands on on the property today at 312 Route 6A, East Sandwich.
William and Priscilla Allen’s home in the photos is no longer with us. It was their second home and built in 1672. It was located at about 312 Route 6A in the Spring Hill territory. Thanks to a project Jon Shaw and I kicked off over 10 years ago, you can now find exactly where Spring Hill is by the oval white signs that designate these National Register Historic Districts throughout town.
The home was a haven for Quakers, but the site of most of the early meetings beginning in 1657 was the first Allen house at about 22 Quaker Road near the first burial ground of unmarked graves of the early Sandwich Quakers.
I recall asking our former Archivist, Barbara Luksanen Gill, where my 9th great grandfather, George Allen, father of William Allen, was likely buried and she replied, “In his back yard!”
The 1672 house was eventually demolished after the death of Alden Allen in 1858. Obviously, it suffered from extreme neglect. Sadly, William and Priscilla did not have children and the home passed to their nephew, Danial Allen, but remained in the family for 200 years. In their elderly years William and Priscilla ran a sort of nursing home for their elderly and ill Friends at the 1672 house.
William came to the shores of America as a young boy with his father, George Allen in 1635 at age 67. George became a leader in Sandwich in spite of his age and most of the Allen’s became ardent Quakers. He died in 1648 at 80.
William, Priscilla and other committed Quakers suffered terribly for their faith, especially under Marshall, George Barlow, a notorious drunk. The Allen’s were fined, had livestock and property confiscated, and William was whipped in Boston. One particularly famous story illustrates it all.
When William was imprisoned in Boston, in 1661, Barlow went to Priscilla’s house and took her last cooking pot and a bag of meal. He said to her, “Now Priscilla, how wilt thou cook for thy family and friends?”
Priscilla answered, “George, that God who hears the ravens when they cry will provide for them. I trust in that God, and I verily believe that time will come when thy necessity will be greater than mine.” Barlow did end up as Priscilla predicted.
Alfred Hoxie points at the soon to be demolished Allen House. Photo circa 1885, courtesy John Nye Cullity.